Written By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Waves of rough weather spawning high winds and a tornado tore through eastern Missouri and the St. Louis area Friday night, downing trees and power lines and sending gamblers rushing from a casino floor.
There were no reports of injuries on a night when severe storms struck in several states. Five people died in a tornado strike outside Oklahoma City.
The storms that began pounding the state around 6:30 p.m. prompted numerous tornado warnings, with at least a few sightings, from Montgomery County about 70 miles west of St. Louis into St. Louis County.
Numerous homes in suburban St. Charles County lost roofs and walls, and roughly 40,000 electric customers throughout the region lost power. The combination of high water and fallen power lines closed dozen of roads, snarling traffic on highways and side streets.
Windows blew out of the hotel at Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights, damaging some cars parked outside with flying debris. Metal power poles in the parking lot snapped off at the base, and emergency managers reported the casino lost part of its roof.
Gamblers reported the walls shook in the poker room. Rich Gordon, of Jefferson City, said he was on the casino floor when he heard a “boom.”
“I didn’t know if it was lightning or what, but it was loud,” Gordon said. Staff then ordered everyone off the casino floor.
Officials at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport reported damage to some auxiliary buildings, and a security guard was pulled uninjured from her damaged shack. The airfield was closed late Friday while crews cleared debris from runways, taxiways and ramp areas, although terminals and concourses remained open.
The storms were part of a system that stretched Friday from far southwestern Missouri through central portions to the St. Louis area. Heavy rain that followed several previous days of rain caused flash flooding in much of the state.
Tornado warnings were posted Friday afternoon into the evening for parts of southwestern Missouri, but no damage was reported from the storms.